California exceeds national average in workplace fines

According to recent data, California’s state regulators are enforcing workplace safety rules with efforts that may exceed their federal counterparts.

Issuing citations and levying fines for workplace safety violations are a common tactic used by safety officials. On average, a fine for a violation of a safety rule promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is $1,991. 

One policy rationale for these fines may be encouraging employers to take a proactive approach to preventing on-the-job injuries. Yet only 23 states in the nation have workplace safety programs applicable to private employers. Among that group, only four states exceed OSHA’s national average. Notably, California ranked at the top, with safety fines averaging around $7191.

Yet not even California’s safety officials were immune from criticism in a recent article. According to federal OSHA officials, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, may not be conducting its workplace inspections with enough frequency. For example, state officials programmed around 1,960 inspections in the latest reporting period, but about 19 percent of those never occurred due to business closings. For inspections that did occur, only 20.9 percent resulted in citations for serious, willful or repeat offenses.

A worker’s compensation attorney might agree that ensuring workplace safety might sometimes be up to individual employees willing to come forward after a workplace accident or observing unsafe protocols. State safety officials lack the staffing to inspect every workplace. For that reason, a consultation with an attorney might help an employee to take preventive action, possibly saving everyone from an accident waiting to happen.

Source:, “Low Penalties, Staffing Shortfalls Continue To Hamper State Plans, OSHA Review Finds,” Bruce Rolfsen, Aug. 22, 2013

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